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Get the Stylishly Simple Look of a Mid Century Modern Living Room

The mid century modern trend may be one of the longest running crazes in the design world- and for good reason! It's a term that was coined around 1950, and encompassed a look that took America by storm from the 1940s to the 1970s. Now it's back in a major way and it shows no signs of slowing down. Just what makes it so popular?

The mid century style was developed as a way to make home life easier for the average American without sacrificing style. The streamlined designs that came from Europe during this time referenced rounded shapes found in nature, as well as clean-lined wooden furniture, and was often quite colorful and playful. Shapes like these are comfortable to use, and simplify a living space into the most basic elements, leaving you free to enjoy living.

The living room is a natural choice for applying this friendly style. When you come home from a long day, it feels good to be greeted by a beautiful, uncluttered space. If you've been thinking about how to incorporate this style into your family room, browse the following mid century living room ideas for some fresh inspiration:

Contemporary Patterns with a Soft Nostalgic Color Palette

You may think of wallpaper as an outdated decorating element, but this print might just change your mind. Geometric motifs in soft colors look just as stylish today as they did in the mid-20th century, and they provide a quick and affordable way to update a spare room with an inspiring feature wall.

A wall this large demands a muted color palette if you plan to decorate it with a bold print. The gray in this patterned wallpaper makes it more modern, and calms down its retro teal accents. The same light gray is picked up the upholstery fabric of the two armchairs.

Patterned wallpaper, a brown leather sofa, gray armchairs, and a glass table on a colorful rug

A warm wooden entertainment stand and traditional slatted platform bench are the perfect compliment to teal. This buttery color is also used in the sofa upholstery for a well-coordinated look, and is carried through into the patterned area rug.

White walls, light wooden floors, and white sheer drapes let in natural light and keep the space feeling airy and bright. The key with this style is to keep things uncluttered at all costs. The leather magazine holder and built-in covered storage in the TV stand help to keep unnecessary objects hidden from sight while still accessible.

Retro Colors Pop Against a Collection of Clean-Lined Wooden Furniture

Pale pink and lime green: Who would have thought this unorthodox color pairing would work so beautifully in a mid century living room? These colors provide a great way to make your contemporary family room unique, while referencing the past. The warm tones of this wooden furniture collection give the pops of color a calm neutral base.

A lime green sofa, pink pendant lamps, a pink pineapple lamp, and retro wooden furniture

This lime green sofa is the star of the show, and matches the style thanks to its angled, tapered wooden legs. It demands a lot of attention, so to keep things balanced I left the rest of the room light and sparsely decorated. The pale pink pineapple themed lamp is an adorable vintage touch, and its shade of pink goes perfectly with the green sofa. Paired with two matching pink pendant lamps and a pale green wall, they create a color palette that's straight out of a home decor magazine ad from the 1960s.

A collection of basic wooden furniture keeps things calm elsewhere. The items used here are made of a range of different woods yet they all have a similar walnut finish. This demonstrates that you don't have to stick to one type of wood to get a cohesive look. Even less expensive composite woods will work with the right shade of veneer.

Take Advantage of Architectural Details with Authentic Vintage Style

Are you lucky enough to have a detail like this sloped ceiling in your home? If so, harness its design potential by adding some mid century decor. The home pictured here looks typical of those built in the 50's, with its gently sloped ceiling. The floor to ceiling window emphasizes the indoor-outdoor flow that was a new idea in the early '50s. When your lounge seems to continue into your backyard, it suddenly seems a whole lot larger. The built-in skylight is equally bright and period appropriate.

A sloped wooden ceiling, wood floors, a large window, a blue couch and orange chairs

The beauty of the natural wood beams of the ceiling call for warm orange tones in the room's decor, so I chose these orange upholstered armchairs for a fully vintage look. The bright peacock blue sofa is in perfect harmony with the orange shades in the room. The combination of orange and blue is in keeping with the retro theme, but it's also very pleasing to the eye. These colors are picked up in the large checked area rug. Its patchwork effect is a wonderful combination of simplicity and nostalgic charm.

Another theme in this interior is the tapered wooden legs of the furniture. It's a hallmark of most furniture made in this style from the '40s through to the '60s. This style of angled legs has a humanistic feeling, as if the furniture were moving and coming to life. You can notice it especially on the exaggerated legs of the floor lamp and coffee table set.

Graphic Art Animates this Teal and Orange Lounge

The mid century modern term doesn't just apply to furniture and home decor. It also encompasses graphic design, architecture, and fine art. The wall art in this mid century modern living room references the look of graphic design and advertisements seen in the 1960s. Its simple colors and lines are the inspiration for the rest of the space. The luxuriously soft pillow I found looks as if it was taken directly from the wall art!

Funky wallpaper, two teal sofas, an orange ceiling lamp, and a soft rug on wooden floors

Once again, I chose a muted tone for the graphic wallpaper. Its angular shapes echo those of the wall art, for the effect of a giant art piece. Thanks to its soft gray and warm off-white tones, it never feels overwhelming or in competition with the rest of the room. This whole space comes to life with the animated directional lines that zig-zag throughout it, all the way down to the high-pile black-and-white rug.

Round Light Fixtures Create a Funky Retro Look with Dynamic Texture

The large round glass light fixtures in this room were popular during this famed time period, and you'll still see them today in the public spaces of many North American cities. Whether you source original vintage lights like these or more affordable reproductions, they're a great way to make the experience of stepping into the room feel like a journey into the past, all while keeping its style relevant and current.

I contrasted the sleek, shiny texture of the glass bulbs with soft natural textures on the opposite end of the spectrum. The modular wall shelf features the distressed look of reclaimed wood, which is a style that's currently very popular. Its textures provide visual interest, and its mixture of woods creates a patchwork effect which was also very common in the mid '60s. The graphic print on the rug mirrors both the square shapes in the cabinet and the round bulbs, with a perfect mix of colors.

Round ceiling lamps, a gray sectional sofa, a wooden shelving unit, and two blue armchairs

Colorful paintings on the wall are another must-have item when referencing this era, as abstract art was very in vogue. Even if you buy prints rather than original paintings, this kind of artwork adds to the room's eclectic feeling and sense of history. With all of these exciting textures and patchwork colors, I felt the need to calm things down with these two pale blue chairs. Their light color creates a resting place for the eye, and their upholstery material has the look of a natural fiber, keeping the vibe natural and authentic.

Light up a Small Space with Cheerful Yellow and a Sunburst Mirror

Continuing the theme of blurring the line between indoor and outdoor spaces, this room takes advantage of the natural lighting provided by its floor to ceiling window. The feature wall is painted with a bold dose of sunny yellow, and plants are also thrown into the mix.

A yellow wall paint color, curved leather armchairs, a round coffee table, and round wall mirror

In a small space such as this one, lighting is key. I chose this starburst mirror both for its style, and its power to amplify the light in the room and make the space feel larger. By placing a simple white light in front a mirror, you can double its light-reflecting power. The pale color of these large leather armchairs is also quite inviting. Is this a space you can see yourself curling up in?

You may have noticed one element that I included in every virtual interior here; a large area rug. Including a soft textile like this is key when working with a style as clean-lined and minimalist as this. After all, this look is all about making every day living more comfortable, so don't forget to add some texture to your new living room design.